3 Remarkable Ways Dogs Improve Your Health & Happiness In The Digital Age

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health and happiness benefits of having a dog

Bring intimacy into today’s technology-focused world with pets.

Could the increase from 60 million dogs as pets in the year 2000 to about 89 million in 2017 reflect the lonely aspects of the digital age and immersion in social  media?

In today's digital age, many find meaning in online interactions — whether via Facebook,Instagram, Snapchat or dating apps, like Bumble and Tindr. As a result, time for deeper levels, even worthwhile, challenging aspects, of connection can be lost. 

Connections with dogs and other animals may be substituting or fulfilling needs for intimacy missing from online relationships.

How so? The chemical connector — oxytocin — that stimulates intimacy through empathy, generosity, and other actions between people is also available in relationships between dogs and humans. This hormone and resulting chemical bond is one of the many reasons dogs steal our hearts

RELATED: Dogs Are Basically Humans, Says Study

Here are 3 additional ways dogs make our lives happier and healthier in the digital age:

1. Dogs play broad and prominent roles in our lives.

According to a poll by Statista, over two thirds of respondents say their pet is their best friend; 59 percent cite pets as their go-to snuggle buddy; and about a third say they view their pet as either their child or guardian. Even 25 percent see their pet as their therapist. I wonder if there’s a human who would provide such variety!

Though sex is not included in this rich array of roles, petting dogs’ fur is certainly sensuous. For extensive health gifts from pets, see advantages that owning a pet provides.

Now, more than ever, people are living longer and alone, which makes having an animal companion an accessible substitute. According to a poll conducted by Pew Research Center, 42 percent of Americans live without a spouse or partner. Millennials — 70 percent of whom have a pet, according to a Harris poll — are marrying later, too, adding value to pet companions.

2. Dogs are easier to manage and more predictable than many people.

While it takes some time and money to care for pets, dogs especially can be counted on for loyalty and love. Give them food and exercise, as well as some affection and time for play, and you’ll generally get a return of pretty unlimited affection and attention. They also tend to behave, especially if trained well initially.

Among the many benefits of caring for a pet are shared exercise, sensual pleasure, and mutual attention, not to mention the decrease in owners’ feelings of loneliness. Reflecting the importance of dogs to their owners, they are increasingly welcomed in offices, stores, and even restaurants.  

3. Dogs provide unique practical assistance.

Service dogs are increasingly appreciated even though their capacities of loyalty, adaptability, and affection have been known and cultivated since their wolf ancestors. Most recently used to assist a range of disabled people since World War I, they are currently helping veterans suffering from PTSD. That and other therapeutic contributions are being studied by Maggie O’Haire at Purdue University

So, in this time of accelerating change and technology that can bring distraction and disconnection, I hope you find ways to improve your quality of life through four-legged friends ─ whether dogs, cats, or other creatures that attract you. Coming from a dog-infatuated family myself, I bet you’ll benefit yourself as well as the animals you choose, borrow, or appreciate.

RELATED: Would You Be Better Off With A Dog Or A Boyfriend?

Ruth Schimel, PhD is a career and life management consultant and author of Choose Courage: Step Into the Life You Want and related handbooks. She writes widely about personal and professional development and consults with individual and organizational clients in the Washington DC area or by phone and email. Ruth shows clients how to access their strengths and realize their hopes as they prepare for the future of work. See information about her practice and free consultation offer at www.ruthschimel.com.

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